Three victims of a fake HIV/Aids cure created by Gambia’s former president have sued for damages, in the first case against Yahya Jammeh to reach national courts since the former leader fled into exile, reports Business Day. The three filed a lawsuit at the High Court in the capital of Banjul, said US-based charity AIDS-Free World, which helped them gather evidence.
The report says Jammeh, whose 22-year rule over the tiny West African country was marked by accusations of human rights abuses, fled to Equatorial Guinea in 2017 after losing an election. Ousman Sowe, Lamin Ceesay and Fatou Jatta were among the first Gambians who joined his HIV/Aids treatment programme in 2007, where they were forced to give up antiretroviral drugs and drink home-made potions that made them vomit. Their health worsened, while others in the programme died.
"I believe it is my responsibility to hold Jammeh to account," said Sowe, a former university lecturer. "I knew that one day the real story would be told."
People were afraid to criticise the president when he was in power, the victims said, so doctors and patients publicly declared that his medicines were working.
The report says, according to the UN agency UNAIDS, the programme hampered real HIV/Aids work in Gambia, which trails behind other African countries in treatment rates. It also worsened stigma against people with HIV and stripped them of dignity, said survivors. Sometimes Jammeh would rub ointment on their bodies in sessions that were broadcast on television, they are quoted in the report as saying. Afterwards, they lost their jobs and struggled to rent houses since their faces were recognisable, they said.
"Jammeh must pay for what he has done to us," Ceesay said. The victims are seeking financial damages for harm suffered and a declaration that their human rights were violated, said Saramba Kandeh, a legal associate at AIDS-Free World.
Jammeh will be tried in absentia and could be represented if he wanted, she said. "We want to send a clear message that people living with HIV are people like us," Kandeh said in the report.
The Gambia-based Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa and a Gambian attorney are also working on the case.
[link url="https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/world/africa/2018-05-31-three-gambians-forced-to-use-yahya-jammehs-aids-cure-sue-for-damages/"]Business Day report[/link]